Comic Relief funds our life-saving work in Ethiopia

We’re thrilled to announce that Comic Relief have granted us funds to take our life-saving work to the Malga Woreda (district) in southern Ethiopia, in a new project that starts on 1 April 2015.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world – ranked 173 out of 186 countries in the 2013 Human Development Report. Life expectancy is estimated at a frighteningly low 57 years.

Women and children suffer a great deal at the hands of the poor economy. Only 10% of births are attended by a skilled professional - and the healthcare systems aren't in place to support women to deliver their babies in a safe and hygienic environment.

Alongside the poor health services , distance from facilities and a myriad of traditional beliefs and practices prevent women from actively seeking appropriate care. For example, the tradition that the placenta has to be buried near the family home prevents women wanting to give birth in a health facility, where they know that the placenta will be burned.


Making it Happen - on International Women's Day and everyday

Make It Happen!  Saving Lives on International Women’s Day

This year’s International Women’s Day theme – Make It Happen – is one which Women and Children First is delighted to adopt.

International Women’s Day will be celebrated globally on 8 March and Women and Children First will join the celebrations by marking the successes our women’s groups have had in reducing the numbers of women and babies who die from preventable causes.

Since 2002 we have really made it happen for hundreds of thousands of women in poor communities in Asia and Africa.  We have made it possible for pregnant, and soon to be pregnant, women in Bangladesh, India, Malawi, Nepal and Uganda to learn about the best ways of looking after themselves during pregnancy and childbirth.  We made it happen for improvements in maternal and newborn health.  We made it happen for women to feel more confident during pregnancy, enabling them to eat nutritious foods, get skilled medical care and know how to keep their new baby safe and healthy. We made it happen for women to face pregnancy and childbirth with confidence, not fear.

In Bangladesh our work with the Perinatal Care Project achieved an astounding 27% reduction in death rates for pregnancy related problems.   In Malawi, our work with the MaiKhanda Trust has saved over 1,000 lives and the latest results for our project with the Malawi Ministry of Health show that an average of 95% of women now deliver their babies in a health centre, get a postnatal check-up and know how to take care of themselves and their babies.

On International Women’s Day and all through the year, we will continue to make it happen for every woman in our projects to enjoy a safe and healthy pregnancy. 

You can Make It Happen too.  Supporting our Cherish Another Mother campaign will make a difference on International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day and every day!

Bringing it Home - saving mothers and babies this Christmas

This year we are running our Bringing it Home Christmas appeal to save the lives of mothers and babies.

We have an ambitious target to raise £10,000 which would allow 2,000 women to attend one of our women's groups for a year - during her pregnancy, childbirth and in the first few days and months of her baby's life. 

"If I can attend a women's group I am half as likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth." Seventeen-year-old Sharmin Akter from Ramkristopur, Bogra District, Bangladesh

One woman still dies every two minutes from complications during pregnancy and childbirth - 99% of them live in developing countries like Bangladesh. But there is a beautifully simple solution that works. Women's groups teach women about how to keep themselves and their babies safe, the danger signs to look out for, how to access healthcare when they need it and then how to give their babies the best start in life.

Women's groups work. The World Health Organisation found that women's groups are effective at reducing maternal mortality by up to 49% providing at least 30% of a local community is able to attend. 

That is where we come in. We run women's groups in developing countries with local health partners. Women in our groups not only learn about keeping and staying safe during pregnancy and childbirth but also decide what needs to be done to improve the lives of all people within their community. For example, it could be a vegetable growing project to provide the right local nutrition or it could be building a bridge across the river so that pregnant women can get to a health facility in an emergency. 

The Bringing it Home story

Bringing it Home was inspired by a trip one of our supporters, Sam Strickland, made to see our work in Bangladesh. He was so moved that he has spent the last year making a film for us, for free.  

"What struck me most forcibly was how the conditions that women in Bangladesh die from aren’t any different to the conditions that women and babies in the UK can face during pregnancy and childbirth. The difference is where they live. And just because the numbers of women and babies that die in developing countries are so much higher than in the UK – the pain of loosing a baby, a wife, a mother, a friend, is no different."

Sam's film used actors, but their stories are real. Horribly real. We had to bring them home.

We hope you will support the Bringing it Home Christmas appeal so that we can save the lives of mothers and babies like Sharmin and her daughter Halima. 

Cherish Another Mother - our Mother's Day appeal



The story behind Cherish Another Mother 2015


Our Mother's Day appeal this year features Regina Ntebe who lives in Ntcheu district in Malawi. Regina had four children by the time she was just 18 and is pregnant with her fifth. She knows that the risks of her dying from conditions and complications during pregnancy and childbirth increase the more times she is pregnant. She describes being pregnant as being like having "one foot in the grave". 

She's right to be concerned. Despite some progress in maternal and newborn babies' mortality rates in Malawi, women like Regina still stand a 1 in 26 chance of dying in pregnancy and childbirth during their lifetimes. The more pregnancies they have the greater the chances of a woman dying. 

However, it's not all bleak news. The evaluation of the first programme we ran in Malawi showed that our model of women's groups is working. We are making real and tangible differences that are saving mothers and babies. 

With your help this Mother's Day we can save more lives.

Thank you for putting women and children first. 



Sharmin and Halima - the story behind Bringing it Home

Bringing it Home title

Seventeen-year-old Sharmin Akter from Ramkristopur, Bogra District, Bangladesh, has a seven-month old daughter, Halima. When she was pregnant, Sharmin regularly attended a Women and Children First women’s group run by our local partner in Bangladesh, the Perinatal Care Project, where she learnt how to look after herself during pregnancy.

I went for my antenatal check-ups, took iron tablets, had a tetanus injection, and made sure I had good food and plenty of rest.

Late one night, when my baby was almost due, I started having severe abdominal pains. These went on all night long but by the next morning the baby showed no sign of arriving. Some friends from my women’s group visited me and reminded me that being in labour for more than 12 hours is a sign that me and my baby might be in danger.

They suggested that my husband take me to the nearby hospital immediately.
 But he didn’t have any money, so he asked his parents to help. They wouldn’t give 
him the money to get to the hospital because they thought my labour was normal, and that we should just wait for the baby to arrive.

My friends were certain, though, that we needed medical care, so when
 my husband returned, they gave us 2,000 Takas (about £17) to get to the hospital, accompanied by the local traditional birth attendant and some members of my women’s group.

I needed a small cut (episiotomy) and Halima was born safely; then we stayed in hospital for 15 days. After the birth, members of my women’s group came to give me advice on how to care for Halima, telling me what vaccinations she should have, and how to prevent pneumonia and other illnesses. I knew to give Halima a good start by breastfeeding her for six months.

The women’s group also talked to my parents-in-law about what had happened, and they now realise that they had not understood the dangers of a long labour nor the need for me to receive hospital care.

I believe that, without the support of the women’s group, Halima would have died. I think that all the women in the village should go to women’s group meetings, and hope that when Halima grows up, she, in turn will join the a Women and Children First group so she will be able to help the next generation of women.

Our work in Bangladesh

Women and Children First has worked with the Perinatal Care Project since 2002. Together we have established 1,004 women’s groups reaching over 85,500 women and their babies.

The programme was evaluated in 2012 and showed we had reduced the death rate of newborn babies by 38%. There were also significant improvements in newborn care practices such as using safe delivery kits, keeping a baby warm immediately after birth and breastfeeding.

Through taking part in a women’s group, Sharmin learnt about breastfeeding, nutrition, and the need for vaccination and regular check-ups.


There’s still more to do ...

Throughout the next three years we’ll be working in the Bogra district of Bangladesh to improve maternal and newborn health for a further 40,000 women and their babies by helping them to access good quality health services.

Striving to make sure that there are women’s groups in the future for little Halima to attend when she is ready to become a mum. 

But information is more important than food.
 It helps us look after ourselves and our family better.”

Help mothers like Sharmin and babies like Halima survive. Please support our Bringing it Home campaign.